Punctate Administration of Ficin as a human and animal model of non-histaminergic itch

N. M. Malewicz, H. F.h. Ieong, S. Oeck, N. Kumowski, Z. Zhang, S. G. Shimada, R. H. LaMotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Ficin, a cysteine protease derived from fig-tree latex, has been reported to elicit itch and nociceptive sensations, though quantitative sensory studies are lacking. Cowhage containing the pruritic cysteine Mucunain, on the contrary, has been widely studied as activating polymodal nociceptors and eliciting a histamine-independent itch. Objectives: We tested whether ficin in heat-inactivated cowhage spicules would elicit itch and nociceptive sensations in humans, and analogous behaviours in mice, which are similar to those evoked by native cowhage, and whether these behaviours in mice were dose-dependent when ficin was injected intradermally. Methods: Human volunteers rated the magnitude of itch and nociceptive sensations evoked by either native cowhage spicules or heat-inactivated spicules soaked in 1, 10 or 100 mg/mL ficin (0.03, 0.3 and 3 ng of ficin in spicule tip), applied to forearm. In mice, itch-like scratching and nociceptive-like wiping were recorded in response to either native cowhage, to heat-inactivated spicules that were either inactive or contained 100 mg/mL ficin, or to intradermal injections of 1.25, 2.5 or 5 μg/ 5 μL, each treatment applied to the cheek. Results: The dose of 100 mg/mL ficin in spicules evoked comparable magnitudes of itch, nociceptive sensations and areas of cutaneous dysesthesia as native cowhage in humans and comparable itch-like scratching and pain-like wiping behaviours in mice. But to elicit similar behaviours when injected intradermally in mice a greater amount of ficin (1.25 μg) was required. Conclusion: Spicule delivery or intradermal injection of ficin elicits behaviours in mice that model itch and nociceptive sensations in humans, suggesting that ficin may be useful in translating mechanistic research on the neural mechanisms of pruritic and nociceptive effects of cysteine proteases between the two species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1300-1307
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Punctate Administration of Ficin as a human and animal model of non-histaminergic itch'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this